The Visitation community annually hosts a guest speaker in advance of the March for Life on the National Mall. This year, Visitation's Pro-Life club Visi4Life welcomed Erin Thielman, a nationally published writer and keynote speaker who spoke with students about her family's experience welcoming a child with Down syndrome and how that has informed her pro-life advocacy.
Visi4Life Co-president Grace Dwyer '20 was instrumental in bringing Erin to campus. "When my fellow Visi4Life leaders and I started to discuss who to invite to speak for Life Week, I immediately thought of Erin Thielman," Grace said. "I‘ve had the wonderful privilege of babysitting her children, and I can honestly say that she and her family are a beautiful example of a family centered in faith. Her advocacy for the pro-life movement has always inspired me, and I knew that everyone in the Visitation community should have the same opportunity to share in her story."
Erin and her husband learned that they were expecting their third child at a comparatively older age. Given their increased risk for pregnancy and birth related complications, Erin and her husband elected to perform prenatal genetic testing.
In one of the most poignant parts of her speech, Erin remembered her physicians' response to the results of her screening which noted a high possibility for Down syndrome. Erin recalled doctors fiercely encouraging the couple to terminate their pregnancy, deeming their child a "burden to society" and using "archaic and hurtful language" to diminish his dignity. Erin's reflection on this experience moved many attendees to tears.
"Visi4Life Week touches me every year," said Visi4Life co-president Cathy Kolesar '20. "I always appreciate the opportunity to step back from all of the noise around us and reflect on the sanctity of life as a community."
Despite her caregivers' discouragement, Erin clung to her Catholic faith and faithfully embraced her baby as a gift and blessing from God. Now, at just one year of age, Erin's son Andrew Paul reminds her, her husband, and their two children that every life is worth living.
"Even if he isn’t aware of it yet, Andrew has been sharing the love of God with everyone he encounters," Grace reflected. "He and every single vulnerable child, both in the womb and in the world, are truly the living, breathing embodiment of the good news...I am so grateful that we have an entire school week devoted to spreading the love that God has for each and every one of us—especially the most vulnerable.